Throughout its history, Canada has instituted a slew of strange laws that no one really understood the purpose of. One law in particular, found in Section 365 of Canada’s criminal code, made it illegal to pretend to practice witchcraft, sorcery and fortune telling:
365 Every one who fraudulently
(a) pretends to exercise or to use any kind of witchcraft, sorcery, enchantment or conjuration,
(b) undertakes, for a consideration, to tell fortunes, or
(c) pretends from his skill in or knowledge of an occult or crafty science to discover where or in what manner anything that is supposed to have been stolen or lost may be found,
is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.
So if you’ve ever dressed up like Harry Potter for Halloween or recited “Wingardium Leviosa” in public, you essentially committed a crime. Nowadays, everyone laughs it off as a joke; but it’s not funny anymore once you’ve actually been charged for it. In fact, a Toronto officer recently laid the charge on a “guilty” individual just six months ago, despite there being no prosecutions in the last 30 or 40 years.
The House of Commons recently passed Bill C-51, which will repeal Section 365. It’s part of a well-received initiative to repeal archaic laws from the criminal code. Wayne Stetski Kootenay, an NDP MP, had this to say to parliament regarding the outdated law:
“One must wonder about the existing laws regarding the practice of witchcraft, sorcery, enchantment or conjuration. In addition to the fact that it impinges on the rights of some religions, and would confuse the U.S. President who is certain that he is the target of a witch hunt, this might also hurt Harry Potter cosplayers; Dungeons and Dragons ‘larpers’, which I do not know much about but which my staff assure me is a thing; and others for whom sorcery is an entertainment. This is a good law to be rid of.”
Members of the opposing Conservative party had a different point of view from Kootenay’s, saying that the law is only in place to help prevent people from fraud and being manipulated by false promises.
The Senate will continue to deliberate on the bill this year.